HackLife: How one GlobalHack VI participant is competing in a hackathon every week.

In an effort to help future participants to better understand hackathons, we’re publishing a series of tips, resources, and profiles every week until GlobalHack VI.

This time around, we talked to Jonathan Allen Grant, who is taking a semester off his undergraduate studies at University of Southern California to live in his Prius and travel across the United States competing in various hackathons.

Read on to find out more about his hackathon-life experience, as well as his advice for first-timers.

Nickname: Jonny, Jonkavart ZenGarden
Age: 21
Hometown: Los Altos
College: USC
Favorite (Computer) Language: Python
# of Hackathons Attended: 5

Why hackathons? Why this adventure?

I started programming at an iDTech camp with a friend, but didn’t get serious about it until my senior year of high school when I took AP Computer Science. I started my freshman year at Cal Poly Pomona not knowing what the heck I was doing, but fell in love with hackathons after attending Poly Hacks one semester into school. I ended up transferring to USC and choosing to major in computer science (following my mother’s wise advice). Earlier this year, I was thinking of graduating college a semester early. My mom suggested that I instead take a semester off of school and compete in hackathons. Morale of the story is, by the way, to listen to your mom. Ultimately, I’m going to grow as a person…a lot. And whenever I question my decision I think — What would I regret not having done 5 years from now? And so I went ahead and applied for a semester off of school, and started registering for hackathons!

Do you have any advice for people who have never been to a hackathon?

Hackathons are all about the friendships and the knowledge you take away. First and foremost, focus on the friendships: winning is nice but secondary! Talk to others, but don’t take it personally if they’re not always chatty back — they may be on the verge of a breakthrough of some sort. Just come back to them later. Secondly, focus on what you’re learning. If you’re new to hackathons (I still feel like a newbie and I’ve been to five now), don’t be afraid to observe and learn from what more experienced participants and teammates are doing around you. If it’s available, take advantage of the swag and other perks. Bring paper to sketch out your problem code or simply to doodle! Plan on getting little to no sleep.

Any parting words of wisdom?

HACKATHONS ARE F*ING AWESOME! Everybody should go to a hackathon, even and perhaps especially in their first year of college. Follow your own path: you don’t always have to follow the traditional route.

Follow Jonathan’s journey at https://www.facebook.com/HackLifePrius/